Courtesy of California Black Media

2022 Movers and Shakers Year in Review – Sonya Aadam

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

Sonya Aadam is Chief Executive Officer of California Black Women’s Health Project. Founded in 1992, the organization says its mission is to improve the health of California’s 1.2 million Black women and girls through advocacy, education, outreach and policy change.  A South Los Angeles native, Aadam’s work includes mentoring and preparing women to navigate a healthcare system that has notoriously underserved Black women.

California Black Media (CBM) asked Aadam to reflect on the past year and share her plans for 2023.

CBM:  With the work you do advocating for African Americans in California, what was your biggest accomplishment in 2022?

Aadam:  In 2022, we lift up the four-year extension of our Sisters Mentally Mobilized Advocate Training Program among our biggest accomplishments.  The program has been successful in building a cadre of Black mental health advocates and activists in key regions of the state and we are so excited to continue the program through another four years of funding from the California Dept. of Public Health.

CBM:  What did you find most challenging over the past year?

Aadam:  Persistent limitations in funding for our work remains our greatest challenge because it means lower wages for existing staff, difficulty attracting new staff, and constant pressure to do more with less.  Our dedicated team could make considerably more in salary elsewhere, but they are willing to sacrifice higher earnings because they believe deeply in the work that we do to uplift better health and wellness for Black women, girls, families, and communities.  

As the CEO of this organization, this lack of sufficient resources is a major source of stress.

CBM:  What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

Aadam:  2023 presents a great opportunity for expanded power building in the Black community in California to advocate for health equity, reparations, and continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  At California Black Women’s Health Project, collaboration is a guiding value and is absolutely necessary for our work to address health disparities, build community capacity, and empower our Sisters statewide to guard their health and wellness.

CBM:  What’s the biggest challenge Black Californians will face next year?

Aadam:  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the health and wellness of Black Californians. We consistently worry about the ongoing mental and emotional strain, what we refer to as “Post-COVID-Stress-Disorder”.   

The fallout of the pandemic and ongoing challenges in securing recovery funding and support will challenge us and require organizations like ours to work harder, go deeper, and fight harder to fill gaps and advocate for mental health and other services.

CBM:  What’s your wish for this holiday season?

Aadam:  Black culture, the loving spirit of Christmas, and the New Year transition give me so much joy during the Holiday season. This year my Holiday wish is for a period of respite and peace, especially for those of us who work in community service. I also wish for a COVID-free Holiday season for us all.


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